Almost a year ago the firebrand and provocative BJP leader Yogi Adityanath had assumed the top job of chief minister of the most populous and politically crucial state in the country, Uttar Pradesh. Since then he has emerged as the most-favoured choice of the Sangh Pariwar.
The RSS has projected the saffron-clad Yogi as a brand ambassador of Hindutva across the various states and extensively used his potential in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Tripura and now in the upcoming Karnataka elections. It is strongly felt in BJP circles that extensive rallies during the UP assembly elections have paved the way for Yogi to carry on the agenda of Hindutva for the upcoming assembly and parliamentary elections in 2019.
Massive criticism of polarisation and upsurge of Hinduism has poised multiple challenges before chief minister Adityanath to soften his hardcore anti-Muslim image. In his first public rally after becoming chief minister at Gorakhpur, such signs were initially evident as he said, “I am not against Muslims but against the policies of previous governments who were bent upon to appease them. My government will do development of all but appeasement of none”. However, later on such softness vanished and he went back to the old inherent rhetoric.
Adityanath, who is a strong votary of construction of a Ram temple at the disputed Babri masjid site in Ayodhya, spearheaded BJP’s Hindutva campaign in eastern UP and continued his ventures even after becoming chief minister. He celebrated Diwali by lighting 1.71 lakh earthen lamps on the banks of river Saryu in Ayodhya. Later, he went to Barsana in Vrindavan to celebrate Holi and Varanasi to celebrate Dev Dipawali. When a journalist asked him if after Diwali and Holi will he celebrate Eid, his reaction was furious. “Why should I celebrate Eid, I am a devout Hindu,” he had said. His comment attracted criticisms as it came from a chief minister who took oath to uphold the Constitution and is expected to be a religion-neutral person. Later, he altered his comment by saying that everybody is free to practice their rituals.
During campaigning for the UP elections, he claimed that the saffron party will pave the way for the construction of the Ram temple in the state. He has been a talisman of the party’s Hindutva-wrapped agenda of development. Even after becoming chief minister, Yogi continued to hold the position of Mahant (chief priest) of the famous Gorakhnath Mutt temple of Gorakhpur, his constituency in the state. He is very particular to be present there on every important ceremony. The Mutt belongs to Nath Sampraday (Nath Community) of saints that has a strong presence in other states too.
Yogi also heads the 15-year-old Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), a villainous moral policing group popular for opposing Valentine Day celebrations and western clothes. His Hindu outfit is particularly active in carrying out offensives in the eastern belt of the state including Maharajganj, Basti, Deoria, Kushinagar, Sant Kabir Nagar and Siddharthnagar.
BJP stormed to power in 2017 on the strength of a series of pledges for people’s welfare specially targeting farmers and youths. The government has completed one year in office and presented the second budget of its five-year term. In the last budget, crop loan waiver of Rs. 36,000 crore and burden to implement seventh pay commission for state employees virtually took toll of most of their welfare schemes. But even in the current budget most of its poll promises have not seen light of the day as no adequate budgetary support was allocated to them.
The most publicised scheme during polls was to give computers to students. It could not get any monetary support. Similarly, the promise to give free WiFi to all colleges and universities, laptops without any bias with free one GB
data per month, all students scoring about 50 per cent would get free education till graduation, could not be formulated and financed due to lack of resources. Besides, the promise to provide round-the-clock electricity in all homes, villages to be connected with mini-bus services and many other promises are gathering dust in the corridors of power.
The farmers are feeling frustrated with the policies as their income could not be raised to double and minimum support price of their cane, potato, wheat, rice, pulses and oilseed crops were not fairly determined. “PM Modi promised to double their income but due to debt they are committing suicides and after Yogi government was installed in the state, more than 100 farmers have committed suicide. Bundelkhand is still worst-hit area where after hailstorm more than a dozen debt-ridden farmers committed suicide because their crop was totally ruined,” president of Bhartiya Kisan Union of Bundelkhand region S.N.S. Parihar told Tehelka.
BJP promised better law and order during their election campaign with the slogan <‘Na goondaraj, Na Bhrashtachar’> (no rule of goon, no corruption) but the situation is no better. Fed up with the deteriorating crime graph, the chief minister gave brazen powers to police as a tool to check rising crimes. It led to misuse as National Human rights Commission issued notice to UP chief secretary Rajiv Kumar over alleged fake encounters questioning the CM’s remarks favouring police encounters to eliminate criminals.
“U.P. police under BJP rule had conducted around 1309 crack down operations wherein 42 alleged criminals were shot dead in self defence and 3068 were nabbed. We have rewarded 1574 policemen for their good work,” claimed new D.G. Police O.P. Singh while talking to Tehelka. Regarding the much-awaited police reforms in compliance to Supreme Court’s directives, Singh said that, “I will reply after studying it.”
Despite claims of improvement in law and order, the spurt in incidents of communal violence were reported from various parts of state allegedly provoked by workers of ruling party and careless attitude of the government machinery in controlling it. This led to continuance of the environment of communal polarisation aimed at strengthening forces of Hindutva.
Forty-five year-old Adityanath has been elected five times as MP from Gorakhpur constituency where his reputation was at stake in the by-election for the parliamentary seat vacated by him. He was representing this constituency in the Lok Sabha since 1998 when he was just 26-years-old. His style of politics is popular in the eastern belt of UP form where he hogged nationwide limelight for his campaigns like “Ghar Wapsi” and “Love Jihad” designed to provoke and consolidate Hindu sentiments.
Yogi opposed slaughtering of cows and its progenies which was banned in UP after enacting of law on the subject. But unlawfully the trade of its meat and skin was flourishing in eastern UP. That made him the leader of the cow vigilantism movement; he stopped cow slaughter and closed illegal mechanical butcher houses. The communal frenzy he generated led to the Dadri lynching case and communal violence in the name of cow vigilantism. There is heightened fear and in most villages unproductive cows have become big menace as they destroy crops resulting in heavy monetary losses to farmers.
Yogi Adityanath heads BJP government formed in UP in March 2017 but his government failed to live up to its promises to farmers and on healthcare and law and order, and his performance was more or less totally committed to his agenda of Hindutva. Real issues of unemployment and livelihood have taken a back seat and most of the time its leaders remain engaged in Hindu-Muslim conflicts. Though the government organised investors’ summit to boost job creation and intensify industrialisation in UP, despite MoU’s amounting to more than 4.23 lacs crores, actualization of such a big target seems to be a herculean task.